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An epic journey can be described as anything in life that has a start, a finish and a lot of challenges, diversions or other experiences in between. With that in mind, it's easy to see how Adam Niewood and His Rabble Rousers would adopt the term as the title for an exciting two-disc album.
Niewood is a multi-talented musician, songwriter and clinician. His professional associations include Steve Gadd, Chuck Mangione, Rufus Reid, Bill Charlap and many others. Niewood's approach to Epic Journey was to deviate from the common practice of bringing the band together and having the members read new music before or during recording. For this project, he took some material that he's written over several years and those musicians who have performed these tracks, so when they came together in session, everybody knew the songs.
Volume I, subtitled "Based on a True Story," includes such interesting titles as "Not Quite Right," "Mellow Drama" and "Child Psychology." On "Demented Lullaby," pianist Kristjan Randalu engages in an extended solo. The front end of it is melodic, elegant and most tranquil. Then the demented side comes through as Randalu intentionally loses control. Niewood, as he does throughout the set, plays several instruments. However, it's his tenor sax solo that's featured. The bass and drums, though mostly in the background, make their marks as well.
"Out of the Woods, for Now..." begins with a moody bass line by Matt Brewer. After a brief lead by Niewood, Brewer solos. The melody picks up and then Niewood engages in a long, freestyle solo, making his horn squeak at key points. The supporting cast is deeply absorbed from start to finish in this opus. Guitarist Jesse Lewis contributes a hypnotic solo.
On Volume II, "Epic Journey," Brewer switches to electric bass, but is joined by Chris Higgins on acoustic bass. Some of the titles are "Entirely Too Tonal," "First Sign of Clarity" and "Five Corridors." "Loved Ones" is a haunting ballad that mostly features Niewood and Randalu. But even the simple bass and guitar background efforts are solid. "A Rap Tap Tap in the Night" is an abstract piece. Niewood engages in a call and response with drums and percussion, while Randulu just plays. The other instruments come in and contribute. It's an exploratory piece that has no discernible melody.
The two volumes combine for nearly two hours of sound. All 18 tracks are Niewood compositions. And the songs cover several emotional journeys, sometimes combining themmaking for an interesting collection.
Track Listing: CD1: Demented Lullaby; Ella Bella; Not Quite Right; Electoral College; Where's the Cat???; Reprise; Out of the Woods, For Now...; Mellow Drama; Child Psychology. CD2: Entirely Too Tonal; Movin' & Groovin'; Loved Ones; Calm Before the Storm; A Rap Tap Tap in the Night; First Sign of Clarity; Breaking and Entering; Stimuli; Five Corridors.
Personnel: CD1: Adam Niewood: tenor, C melody, soprano, alto and baritone saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Kristjan Randalu: piano (1, 2, 4, 7), Fender Rhodes (5, 6, 9); Matt Brewer: bass (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Chris Higgins: bass (2, 4, 8); Rohin Khemani: drums (4, 5, 6), djembe, doumbek, frame drum, elephant bells, Tibetan bowl, African rattles and shakers (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8); Greg Ritchie: drums and cymbals (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9). CD2: Adam Niewood: tenor, C melody and soprano saxophones; Kristjan Randalu: piano, Fender Rhodes; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Matt Brewer: electric bass; Chris Higgins: acoustic bass; Rohin Khemani: drums, cymbals, djembe, doumbek, frame drum, elephant bells, Tibetan bowl, African rattles and shakers; Greg Ritchie: drums and cymbals.